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The Busy Season

The Busy Season published on 3 Comments on The Busy Season

The Empty Kingdom It is officially Busy Season at stately E-merl Towers. So busy that I’m already two weeks behind on letting you all know about the E-merl Autumn Tour. So! For folks who have access to a time machine, you may want to travel back to Saturday to catch me talking about sound in digital comics at Transitions 5 in London. Or perhaps set the controls for the Sunday before last to hear me discuss digital comics with Scott McCloud and Russell Willis at The Lakes Comic Arts Festival. For those without a time machine, I can offer the small solace of a video recording of the guest lecture I gave last Wednesday on Comics and Videogames at Malmo in Sweden (I wasn’t actually in Sweden, but my big giant head was transmitted there by the wonders of the Internet).

This news post would more happily sit under the title of “olds” were it not for the fact that I’ve got three more speaking engagements coming up in the next month. On Friday 7th November I’ll be giving a keynote on digital comics at The University of Bergen’s Visibility illustration symposium. My actual entire body is being transported to Norway for that one, so that should be fun. Then the following weekend I’ll be at Thought Bubble in Leeds as part of the Electricomics booth. The whole Electricrew will be on a panel together on Saturday, which will hopefully be entertaining and informative in equal measure. And at the booth we’ll have an exclusive new mini comic that includes a three page strip from myself, entitled ‘An Elephants’ Guide To Digital Comics.’ Also at the show you’ll be able to get your paws on the final issues of Necessary Monsters 2: Murderbox, which is packed full of enough Azzopardi goodness to warrant your attendance all on its own.

Finally, (finally!) on the 19th November I’ll be appearing as part of this year’s Comica Festival on the Digital Comics: Evolution and Revolution panel at the Institut Français in London. Wow, I sure have been talking about digital comics a lot lately, haven’t I? Alongside all the talking I’ve also been taking my new game/comic, The Empty Kingdom with me on tour and subjecting the unwary to random play testing. Keep it under your hat, but if you click on the chap in the crown to your left you can get a sneak peak at the first screen. If you’d like a more in depth look, pop along to one of the events listed above, or possibly invent time travel. Which ever’s more convenient I guess.

Electric Comics Theory

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Folks who have been paying attention to the news have likely already caught wind of the ‘major new digital comics research project’ I teased back in February. Electricomics was officially announced to the world at the end of May although I’ve been attached to the project for a year prior to that, so it’s lovely to finally be able to tell you all about it here at E-merl. Essentially, Electricomics is a digital comics research project born out of the mind of comics legend Alan Moore and funded by the NESTA Digital R&D Fund for the Arts.

We’ve got a whole load of talented comics folk on board to create our initial proof-of-concept comics, Ocasta Studios providing the tech know-how and myself and Alison Gazzard acting as the project’s two research partners. Together we’re all trying to figure out what makes digital comics tick and then create an open source toolkit for their creation. You can find out lot more detail by taking a browse of the Electricomics website and I’d like to particularly draw your attention to this recent article by myself and Alison that lays out some of the digital comics theory at the bedrock of the project.

Speaking of theory, I thought it was well past time that I opened a section of E-merl devoted to it. And thus, the Theory page was born! Check it out to get a feel for the highlights of my comic scholarship over the last few years of my doctoral study – hopefully it’ll prove to be a useful resource for anyone else researching digital or architecturally mediated comics. In a similar spirit, I also took the time to get the Consulting page up to date with details of my recent consultancy and exhibitions (which hopefully will prove equally useful for people who want to hire me to do comics things for money).

Digital Comics Unmasked

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Hey look, it’s May! How did that happen? It seems since February a few of the vague events hinted at in my last news post have now come to pass, so time for some updates. First off, UK readers may already have heard of the Comics Unmasked exhibition that’s just opened at the British Library, as it’s been getting lots and lots of favourable press. What folk may not know is that as part of the show I was asked to curate an exhibit of significant digital comics by UK creators. You can read more details about the exhibit in the press release over here and I’d heartily recommend anyone visiting London over the summer to go and take a peek in person.

Elsewhere in the world of digital comics, we’ve recently put out a call for participation for a second academic journal focussed on the medium. Myself and Jayms Nichols will be co-editing an edition of the Networking Knowledge journal and we’re keen to accept abstracts that examine all aspects of comics crossover with digital media. Full details of the call are over here. In related news, I’m going to be presenting some of my own recent research into sound in comics at the Digital Reading Network‘s first symposium. The event is taking place on June 19th in Bournemouth and is still open for registration for those that fancy coming along.

And finally, a look into the Internet’s crystal ball has revealed that I’m going to be a guest at The Lakes festival in October. I’ll be there to take part in a discussion about digital comics with Scott McCloud, who is just about the best person to be discussing that with ever. Book your tickets now or risk missing out on what critics everywhere are sure to call “two friends having quite a nice chat about comics.”

Dice With A Redesign

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Hey look, it’s E-merl 8.0! Everything’s gone a bit wider and more colourful, hasn’t it? And what’s that? Why, it appears to be brand new, twice-weekly webcomic serial, Dice With The Universe. Picking up the baton from the recently completed MASIVO, Dice will be updating every Tuesday and Friday. But unlike… well, just about every serial I’ve done before, Dice will need you (yes, you!) to take a hand in determining what transpires each week.

Meanwhile in other news… there is no other news I can tell you. Yet. While it looks like I’ve got a very exciting and rather busy 2014 ahead of me, I’ve been thoroughly sworn to secrecy about the lot of it. So! Vague hints it is! In the year to come look out for a second webcomic serial to debut at E-merl, a new comics installation to be exhibited somewhere in London, a discussion panel 12 years in the making and the announcement of a major new digital comics research project. Comics! Excitement! Vagueness! Yay!

Thought Monsters In Space

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NM2: MurderboxTime for an autumnal news update, don’t you think? Starting off with an upcoming event – Thought Bubble 2013 will soon be upon us and I’m going to be there, sharing table 149 with Mr Noble. Debuting at the show will be not one, but two new issues of Necessary Monsters: Murderbox by myself and my esteemed colleague, Mr Azzopardi. Also at the show will be Mr Miers and his fascinating Score & Script anthology, which just so happens to contains new strips by both myself and Mr. Noble. Why not bring your freshly-purchased copy along to our table and enjoy the bout of fisticuffs that will no doubt ensue as we attempt to settle which of the strips is the finer.

Remember my gallery comic, Black Hats In Hell? I mentioned it in a news post a little way down the page? No? Well then allow me to direct you towards two aide-mémoires. Firstly, the comic has had the good fortune to be featured in Paul Gravett‘s new book, Comics Art. Part of Tate Publishing’s Contemporary Art series, the book presents a fascinating tour of the medium that I’d recommend to everyone as thoroughly worth checking out. Secondly, I’ve now completed my own write up on Black Hats, in the shape of an academic paper entitled Images In Space. Based on the talk I gave at Oxford in September, the paper examines the comic alongside other architecturally mediated works and tries to get at what makes this subset of comics tick. Take a peek and let me know what you think via the twitters or, even better, in person at Thought Bubble next weekend.

Icarus Needs

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Icarus NeedsDespite the unprecedented outbreak of summer, production has not slowed in the E-merl comic factories. Freshly unleashed on the public is my new game/comic hybrid, Icarus Needs. Folks may remember the game’s protagonist, Icarus Creeps from his appearance in a couple of previous tales here at E-merl. For those interested in getting some further insight into the ideas behind the game, I’ve popped up a pdf copy of the Game Comics talk I gave last month at the Joint International Graphic Novel and Bande Dessinées Conference in Glasgow.

Staying in the world of comics theory I’ve also recently had the good fortune to see the publication of my first two academic papers on digital comics. Digital Comics: New Tools and Tropes can be found in Studies In Comics (Volume 4, Issue 1) while my hypercomic history From Comic To Hypercomic is in Cultural Excavation and Formal Expression in the Graphic Novel. Should any of my fellow comics scholars happen to be reading, I’ll also give a quick plug for the new journal on digital comics that I’m going to be editing. Writing Visual Culture: Digital Comics will be out in early 2014 and I’ll be taking submissions for papers up until 18th August. For full details, check out the full call on the TVAD blog.

Iron Duck 2020

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Hello Internet! Four quick bursts of news for you on this fine Thursday evening.

One: At the end of May I released a free-to-play browser version of A Duck Has An Adventure over on Kongregate. Anyone who hasn’t had a chance to play Duck on Android can now hop over there to try it out. The game has proved quite popular so far, scooping Kongregate’s Game Of The Week and racking up over 300,000 plays so far. Also, oddities like this page of YouTube play-throughs and some lovely reviews. Thanks Internet!

Two: The Necessary Monsters website has now relocated to and morphed into an Etsy shop. Not only can you purchase the original graphic novel there, you can also pick up the first two issues of Necessary Monsters 2: Murderbox. It’s the same great mix of spy-horror thrills, only this time with a soupçon more James Bond and Hellraiser thrown into the mix.

Three: The Iron Man 2020 serial I wrote for Marvel Comics has now been collected alongside other tales of Arno Stark into a lovely little trade paperback. Available in all good comic stories or via your local Amazon dot whatever.

Four: I’m off to Scotland! Yay! All next week I’ll be attending the Joint International Graphic Novel and Bande Dessinées Conference in Glasgow and Dundee. And on Tuesday morning I’ll be delivering a new, completely retooled version of my Game Comics paper to the assembled comics luminaries. Wish me luck!

Black Hats In Spring

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So I have a pretty insanely busy April ahead of me. So busy that I have now decided to name the next few weeks as The Official 2013 E-merl Spring Tour. Wooo! The centrepiece of the tour will be my new hypercomic installation called Black Hats In Hell that will be opening at two – count ’em, two! – different locations this month. On the 15th April I will be taking over the Postgraduate Gallery at the University Of Hertfordshire with the initial installation of the comic, which has been designed specifically to make use of unique shape of the gallery space.

Then on the 19th of April I will be installing a new, site-specific remix of the comic outside the Platform Theatre at Central St Martins in London. This second version will incorporate collaborative digressions made by some of the students at CSM and features as part of the Comica festival taking place that weekend. I’ll be there in person on Saturday the 20th April as part of the Comica Comiket and would love to hear attendees feedback about the work.

But my travels in April do not stop there! I’m also hitting the conference circuit and will be delivering two papers across three conferences without the aid of a safety net or, probably, any reasonable amount of sleep. The hijinks begin on April 3rd when I’ll be delivering a paper entitled “Comics Are Control” as part of the Adventures In Textuality conference at the University Of Sunderland. Then a week later on April 10th I’ll be at the opposite end of the country at the University of Sussex delivering a paper on Game Comics as part of their Tablet Syposium.

For the Spring Tour’s grand finale I’ll be popping across to Germany from April 23rd to 26th in order to deliver an expanded version of my Game Comics paper at the Change & Continuity Symposium as part of the Stuttgart Festival of Animated Film. If any of you are in any of those places at the same time I am in those places you should probably say “hi.” And then you should probably buy me a drink because, if I have actually managed to succeed in meeting all those deadlines, then I am certainly going to be in need of one.

Bubbles, Ducks, Score & Script

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Heya folks! A quick update to direct your attention to three bits of news. Firstly, myself and the usual reprobates shall be at Thought Bubble in Leeds this weekend. Come find me at my table in the Royal Armouries Hall to get your hands on the first issue of Necessary Monsters 2 and the new, full-colour All Knowledge Is Strange mini.

Secondly, myself and the aforementioned reprobates are also amongst the contributors to the Score & Script exhibition opening in London next week at the Centre For Recent Drawing. Much kudos to John Miers for coming up with the whole concept and then inviting us all to take part. Should be some fascinating works of comics on show – I know I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what my fellow contributors have come up with.

Thirdly, A Duck Has An Adventure has been short listed for the New Media Writing Prize. Wooo! Also: Quack! You can see all the short listed entrants here and even vote for your favourite in the People’s Choice Prize (hint: choose the one with ducks in). The awards themselves will take place in Bournemouth on the evening of 28th November and you’re more than welcome to come along if it sounds like your cup of tea.


New York! New Monsters!

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NM2: MurderboxTwo exciting things are happening! One: Sean and I have finished the first issue of Necessary Monsters 2! Very exciting! NM2: Murderbox picks up right where volume one left off and features more spy-horror thrills than you can shake a severed limb at. Those in the UK wanting to get their hands on a copy will be able to pick up issue one at MCM in October or Thought Bubble in November. For US readers interested in checking out the new series, I direction your attention towards the following paragraph.

Second exciting thing: I am going to be at New York Comic Con with First Comics! Very, very exciting! First Comics will be at booth #1624 and I’ll be on hand with copies of Necessary Monsters, Murderbox, Brain Fist and a full-colour, con exclusive issue of All Knowledge Is Strange. I should be about for all four days of the convention, so do stop by the booth to say hello. Karol and I will be in New York from 8th October, so if you’re someone I know in the NYC area and you want to meet up before the show, drop me a mail to merlin (at) and plans will be made.

Oh! Additional sort-of-exciting-but-probably-more-just-kinda-interesting thing I should mention: the paper I delivered at The Graphic Novel Conference in Oxford on the history of the hypercomic is now available to read online over here. Special thanks to Neal Von Flue, whose assistance with the paper was invaluable.